Cognitive bias modification for the induction of negative versus benign interpretations of the self in individuals with elevated social anxiety

effects on self-related and anxiety outcomes

Natasha Reyes, Kelsie A. Boulton, Jin Han, Michelle Torok, Quincy J. J. Wong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Studies of cognitive bias modification for interpretations in the social anxiety literature typically examine the effects of inducing a benign interpretation of ambiguous social situations. This study modifies and extends cognitive bias modification procedures to specifically alter interpretations of the self (CBM-IS) associated with social anxiety disorder and examined the effects of negative CBM-IS versus benign CBM-IS. Participants with elevated social anxiety were randomly allocated to a negative or benign CBM-IS condition. After CBM-IS training, participants were assessed on induced interpretations of the self, completed a speech task, and rated their performance. Negative self-esteem and anxiety were assessed at baseline, post-training, and post-speech. As predicted, negative CBM-IS induced a negative interpretation of the self whereas benign CBM-IS induced a benign interpretation of the self. There were also three key differential effects: (a) a baseline to post-training increase in negative self-esteem following negative CBM-IS but not benign CBM-IS, although the negative self-esteem difference between conditions was no longer evident at post-speech, (b) a greater increase in anxiety from post-training to post-speech following negative CBM-IS relative to benign CBM-IS, and (c) more negative self-ratings of speech performance following negative CBM-IS relative to benign CBM-IS. These findings validate the new CBM-IS procedures, and highlight the potential of these procedures for testing models of social anxiety disorder and for therapeutic intervention to reduce social anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jan 2020



  • social anxiety disorder
  • social phobia
  • cognitive bias modification
  • self
  • beliefs
  • interpretation
  • treatment

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